Happy Valentine’s Day! The following letters are posted here as written in one of my antique books on 19th century etiquette. The punctuation, spelling, grammar, and layout are exactly as they appeared when published. I hope you find them interesting and heartfelt.
A lady on receiving proposals from a gentleman who wishes to pay his addresses.
The attentions which you have so long and so assiduously shown to me have not escaped my notice; indeed, how could they, since they were directed exclusively to me, and in preference to others who, for personal attractions and mental endowments, had far higher claims to your consideration? Yet, as I could not fail to notice, you seemed insensible to their presence; on me your regards appeared to be fixed; in me your thoughts appeared to centre; studious of my looks, my words, my actions, you were constantly alive to the anticipation of my faintest wish, and eager to gratify that wish, even at the sacrifice of your own convenience. I admit the truth, that, pleased and flattered by such attentions, I fondly endeavored to persuade myself that attachment toward me had formed itself in your breast.
Judge, then, what must have been my feelings on reading the contents of your letter, in which you propose to pay your addresses, in a manner, the object of which cannot be mistaken – that I may regard you as my acknowledged suitor, and that you have chosen me as the one most likely to contribute to your happiness in the married state.
On consulting my parents, I find that they do not object to your proposal; therefore, I have only this to add – may we still entertain the same regard which we have hitherto cherished for each other, until it shall ripen into that affection which wedlock shall sanction, and which lapse of time will not allow to fade.
Believe me to be,
Yours, sincerely attached,
A lady refusing proposals
Surely there must have been something in my behavior toward you, upon which you have set a misconstruction. Of what it consisted I am wholly unconscious; but that such has been the case. I feel convinced by an attentive perusal of your letter, which I have just received. I assure you that I feel much flattered by your preference of me, as well as by your proffer of our becoming mutually better acquainted; but with every feeling of regard toward you, I beg respectfully to decline your addresses. What my reasons may be for so doing, you will not, I trust, inflict upon me the pain of declaring; suffice it to say, that I cannot admit them, and I confidently hope that henceforward you will feel the propriety of not referring to this subject.
If, from any motives you should still urge your suit, by making an appeal to my parents, I may venture to declare that such an appeal would be unavailing. I am satisfied they would never thwart my wishes in an affair of this delicacy, and in which my happiness is so much involved. With my best wishes for your future welfare, allow me to subscribe myself,
Yours, most respectfully,
A lady expressive of her apprehensions that her suitor has transferred his affections.
Our acquaintance with one another has now continued for some space of time, during which an intimacy, guided by the nicest sense of propriety, has existed between us. Emboldened by this intimacy, I now address you, though the subject is one of a painful nature, at least to my feelings, as I double not it will also prove to yours; therefore, forgive me since the warmth of my attachment has impelled me to write.
Need I remind you that our vows of constancy have long been pledged, and often reiterated – more times than I can number. My own attachment to you has been most sincere; but I have remarked of late, and I cannot conquer my desire of saying it, that your behavior toward me has seemed to partake of an unwanted coolness, which nothing, I am convinced, upon my part, could have given you the slightest cause for showing. I have asked myself, “Is it likely that another has usurped my place in your affections?” and when I have endeavored to call to mind in what society of unmarried ladies I have seen you, I find there is one object toward whom, if I truly declare my feelings, I must frankly admit that I feel myself jealous; yes, I have said the word, and I do not wish to disguise that jealousy has prompted me to write this letter.
If my suspicions shall prove to have been groundless, ease my anxiety by a few brief lines to that effect. They will not fail to re-assure me, and convince me that a place in your affections is still retained by,
Yours, most sincerely,
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884